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The Lost Wife [Paperback]

Alyson Richman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012

There on her forearm, next to a small brown birthmark, were six tattooed numbers.

'Do you remember me now?' he asked, trembling.

She looked at him again, as if giving weight and bone to a ghost.

'Lenka, it's me,' he said. 'Josef. Your husband.'

During the last moments of calm in prewar Prague, Lenka, a young art student, falls in love with Josef. They marry - but soon, like so many others, they are torn apart by the currents of war.

In America Josef becomes a successful obstetrician and raises a family, though he never forgets the wife he thinks died in the camps. But in the Nazi ghetto of Terezín - and later in Auschwitz - Lenka has survived, relying on her skills as an artist and the memories of a husband she believes she will never see again.

Now, decades later, an unexpected encounter in New York brings Lenka and Josef back together.

From the comfort of life in Prague before the occupation to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the endurance of first love, the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to remember.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; Unabridged edition (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444730207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444730203
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alyson Richman is the author of The Lost Wife, The Mask Carver's Son, Swedish Tango, and The Last Van Gogh. The daughter of a painter and an engineer, Richman's novels combine a love of art and research, and have been published in more than ten languages. She lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and two children.

Product Description


This beautifully written, heart-rending, evocative novel explores the power of first love and the resilience of the human spirit. (Life & Living)

'The reader is taken back to an age of innocence in pre-war Prague as the young couple fall in love. In Richman's fourth novel, the use of language is highly imaginative.' (The Daily Telegraph)

The Sophie's Choice of this generation. (John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author)

'If you're a fan of Paulina Simon's The Bronze Horseman trilogy, this is right up your alley. Have the tissues near as the story of how they come to find one another again unfolds.' (GRAZIA)

A lyrical tale of the ravages of war, lost and the human quest for redemption. (The Good Book Guide)

Tragedy and hope, love and loss, and the strength to endure are expressed through Richman's graceful writing and powerful characters, many based on actual Holocaust victims and survivors. (Booklist)

Heart-wrenching . . . a genuinely moving portrait. (Publisher's Weekly)

Daringly constructed . . . Richman writes with the clarity and softness of freshly-fallen snow. (Loring Mandel, Emmy winning playwright)

Begins with a chilling revelation and had me hooked throughout. A love story wrapped in tragedy and survival, I read THE LOST WIFE in one sitting. Tense, emotional and fulfilling: a great achievement by Alyson Richman. (Martin Fletcher, Special Correspondent NBC News, Winner of the Jewish National Book Award)

Book Description

Separated by war and each believing the other dead, a couple meet again decades later...

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read.... 5 Mar 2012
By jaffareadstoo TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
The Lost Wife begins in New York in 2000 with a family wedding, and a revelation. What then follows is a retrospective love story told through a series of individual chapters, following the fortunes of a Jewish Czech couple, Josef Kohn and Lenka Maizel. They meet amid the glamour of pre-war Prague, where Josef is learning medicine, and Lenka is pursuing her love of art at the Prague Academy. They fall in love, but with the threat of war imminent; their hastily arranged marriage is destined to be passionate, but short lived. With danger ever present, Josef and his family have the opportunity of escaping to America, but Lenka refuses to leave, and makes the difficult decision to stay behind in Prague with her mother, father and younger sister. Along with other Czechoslovakian Jews, Lenka and her family are transported, first to the Nazi work camp in Terezin, and then finally to the horror of Auschwitz. Using her love of art as her salvation, Lenka suffers the degradation and horror of the Holocaust, whilst maintaining her principles in the midst of a world gone mad. As the war progresses, and with no news of Lenka and her family, Josef must face an uncertain future in America.
On a personal level I found the novel easy to read, and as Josef and Lenka's individual narratives are explained in more detail, their characters come alive. The story is quite harrowing at times, with frank and honest depictions of life in the concentration camps, and yet ultimately, this is a beautifully written novel about love, and the redemptive quality of the human spirit to face evil, and the individual fight to overcome adversity.
Tackling difficult issues, and turning them into a readable novel is never going to be easy, and yet the author has managed to put into words a perfect sense of time and place, without ever succumbing to mawkish sentimentality.

This is one of those books that will stay in my imagination for a long time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Nicola F (Nic) TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
For me, this book was a must-read once I chanced on the gorgeous cover and the heartbreaking sounding premise. I have read a lot of books set in both WWI and WWII and based around the holocaust, but none to my recollection set in Prague, which is a city I have enjoyed visiting in the past. I can recall visiting the Jewish quarter in the city and in particular the holocaust museum, so I knew this would be a book that would resonate with me.

Set prior and during WWII, we meet art student Lenka, a Jew who secretly falls in love with Josef, the brother of one of her closest friends. In a city on the cusp of war where all Jews are persecuted, the two marry with the belief that Josef will ultimately be able to secure Lenka and her family safe passage to America with his own family, only to find themselves with an impossible, heartbreaking choice to make...

What a book! The writing put me in mind of an Anita Shreve book with its eloquent, beautifully flowing prose and the vivid descriptions, yet the plot reminded me more of Paulina Simmon's `Bronze Horseman' trilogy with its love against a backdrop of war theme and the horrors that are undergone, particularly by Lenka. I think if you are a fan of either of those authors then this would be a novel you will appreciate.

This book has a lot of themes- the main ones being war and romance, though a lot is encompassed into the plot including grief, regrets, separation, loss, remorse and recriminations. The horrors of the ghettos and concentration camps are covered in quite a lot of detail and I did feel my heart breaking at the poignancy of what happened with some of the characters, who I grew attached to. There was also a sense of anticipation at the rebellion against the Nazi's which I thought was very well depicted.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but disappointing ending 27 Aug 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Lenka and Josef enjoy a pleasant, easy existence in beautiful, pre-WWII Prague until they are separated by the Nazi occupation. The dreams of the young newlyweds are shattered when Josef is forced to flee to the USA while Lenka, unwilling to abandon her family, is transported to the ghetto of Terezin.
Safe in the USA, Josef marries and becomes a successful obstetrician, but clings to the memory of Lenka. Lenka, though, must banish Josef from her mind if she is to live through her atrocious experiences in Terezin and, later, Auschwitz. Both convinced the other has perished, Lenka and Josef are shocked when, decades later, a chance meeting reunites them.
With an artist's eye, the author uses bright colours to contrast elegant pre-war Prague with the camps' dark and dismal shades. She shows how the people's love of art and music became their crutch for survival, demonstrating the irony of the Nazis' systematic destruction of these very same intellectual gifts.
The story is an intense exploration of love on many different levels: love of art and music, love between couples, families and friends, and how each relationship is sculpted out of personal education, tragedy and time. The author demonstrates how this power of love can sustain one through shocking experiences.
The Lost Wife is also a sad and depressing Holocaust tale. Both main characters are empathetic, as they struggle through their separate lives, though at times Lenka and Josef tend to sound like the same person. The reader knows the outcome of the story from the start, which steals much of the tension and renders the ending a little of an anti-climax.
I found this novel engrossing, touching and thought-provoking, and feel it could benefit even more from further editing, notably word repetitions and some misuse of obstetric terminology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I couldn't put it down, it was so captivating and emotional. I cried from happiness and sadness. Well written. Sometimes when you read a book it changes you. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Shelley Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I loved this book. Buy it. You won't be sorry.
Published 1 month ago by angeline burton
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a sensitive study of the power of love and the ability of human...
From its beguiling and moving opening right through to the end, this is a novel that totally captures the reader's emotions. Read more
Published 1 month ago by ABL
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
really good read
Published 1 month ago by leylandlass
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A lovely holiday read
Published 1 month ago by S I A Chisnall
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
The first page grips you but was a little slow from then on, enjoyable.
Published 2 months ago by Sandra Solomon
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 months ago by tony Swain
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, I am now reading another Richman novel
I sat in my garden and wept and wept. Beautifully written, I am now reading another Richman novel.
Published 2 months ago by Camilla Davey
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Holocaust fiction is harrowing if done properly & this is a different twist on the subject that makes you think, makes you sad & makes you angry which good holocaust fiction should... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Foster
3.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking and moving read.
The Lost Wife is the fourth novel by American author, Alyson Richman. In the year 2000 in New York City, Josef Kohn and Lanie Gottlieb meet: they are attending the rehearsal of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
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